Peak Design Travel Backpack
Travis Smola

Gear Review: Peak Design Travel Backpack and Duffel

The Peak Design travel backpack and duffel are great for outdoor enthusiasts.

If you're like me, odds are you've acquired a lot of outdoor gear and gadgets over the years. Just my camera gear alone makes up a large portion of what I lug along on my outdoor adventures every year. I own several travel packs but have had a hard time finding one that was right for keeping all my gear neat and organized.

That was until I recently got the chance to try out the new Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L and the 60L travel duffel. I must say, I'm impressed. Both have a simple, unassuming design, yet may be the best two packs for travel an adventurer can use.

Here's what I thought of both bags and the best uses for both kinds depending on your favorite style of outdoor travel.

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Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L

Peak Design Travel Backpack

Travis Smola

We'll cover the travel backpack first, because this may be my new favorite camera backpack. I've acquired quite a few pieces of camera gear over the years, including my new Sony Mirrorless camera, multiple lenses, a GoPro and corresponding accessories, and finally, my DJI Spark micro-sized drone. I've used a few other packs as my primary camera bag, but the Peak Design is going to be my go-to bag from now on.

This is mostly thanks to the fact that the main compartment zips completely open giving you full access to everything inside. Considering that I often work on the road, this is the easiest bag I've ever used for hauling a 17-inch laptop. I haven't gotten the chance to take the Peak Design through an airport yet, but I already know this is going to be my carry-on because of how easy it will be to open and take electronics out when TSA stubbornly insists on checking everything out. No more trying to stuff the laptop in one open end and then struggling to zip it closed.

Speaking of struggling to close a bag, this pack is expandable. There's an extra zipper that goes the full length and loosening it opens an additional 6L of storage inside, adding some additional functionality to the bag. The interior of the main compartment also has a laptop/tablet sleeve, and multiple internal mesh pockets for all your odds and ends. For me, they make for an excellent tech pouch to hold things like SD cards and batteries. Peak Design says it's compatible with their packing cube storage system, fitting up to three of those inside. I did not have those to test, but it looks like they'd go a long way towards keeping things even more organized.

This pack has a simple, slick design that we appreciate. There's not a lot of extra straps or frills about the exterior by design. That means less things to hook up on an airplane seat or inside a cramped vehicle storage area. I have a press trip to Costa Rica planned for later this year and I can already tell this bag is going to work much better for my connecting flights on the smallest of planes.

Nothing about the Peak Design feels cheap. It has a 900-denier waterproof bottom liner. The shell itself is a 400-denier nylon canvas. I didn't get the chance to test Peak Design's weatherproof claims, but it should do a fine job of keeping the contents dry in lighter rains. It's not a hardcore camping backpack, but you could use it to haul things like trail cameras or even fishing gear, because it thrives as a daypack. It should handle light to moderate hikes in the park just fine. There's even a side pocket for a water bottle for that very purpose.

Peak Design Travel Backpack

Travis Smola

I especially appreciate the large grab handle and zippers of this pack. The zippers are large and feature even larger pulls that are easy to grasp, especially in cold conditions. It's long been a frustration of mine how so many companies opt for the tiniest zippers possible on their bags, making them more prone to getting stuck at the least convenient times.

That's not the case with this bag. The zippers and pulls are large and ergonomic, perhaps more so than any other bag I've ever used. For anyone with hand problems like arthritis, you should have no issues using any of the zippers on this bag.

I do want to mention the shoulder straps. That's the one area where I wasn't thrilled with this bag. I like a lot of padding in my pack's straps. While the Peak Design's straps are padded, they're not very thick. I think part of that is by design, so you can tuck them into a back panel for checking onto a flight. It doesn't affect the comfort of the bag that much; it's more just a personal preference on my part than anything else.

The most puzzling aspect is that Peak Design includes a sternum strap, but not a hip strap with the 30L. The hip strap must be purchased separately. I'm not sure what the thinking on that was considering the hip strap comes with the 45L. Honestly, I'm not likely to ever overload this pack to the point where I'd think I need it. Your mileage on that may vary.

Peak Design Travel Duffel 65L

Peak Design Travel Backpack

Travis Smola

I was also fortunate enough to get to test the Peak Design Travel Duffel in a 65L size. It's designed for extended trips and for hauling lots of clothing. Even if I get less use out of it (I try to avoid checked luggage on plane trips), I consider this travel bag perfect for car camping and road trips where you're not as worried about space.

The duffel has the same 900D bottom liner and a weatherproof 600D nylon canvas shell like the travel backpack, and it is the most rugged duffel I've ever used. I see these two bags being my one-two punch for summer road trips. The backpack is for my laptop and camera gear, and the duffel is for everything else.

This duffel has the same great ergonomic zippers and pulls as the backpack, plus four external side pockets which are great for small toiletry items. There are also two internal mesh pockets for small items that can easily be lost in larger bags.

We mentioned the size, but this 65L duffel bag is truly huge, which is going to make it perfect for any fall hunting trips I go on this year. There's plenty of room not just for a week or two's worth of clothes, but also base layers, sweaters, jackets, and hunting pants, with some extra room to spare. Just like the backpack, this bag is compatible with Peak Design Packing cubes to further organize things. There are even some clips for hooking in their camera cubes. This thing will keep you organized on the road or in your camping activities, no doubt.

I wanted to mention the shoulder strap of this bag too, but with a more positive reaction. It is cushy and more padded, which makes me wonder why they didn't use these materials on the backpack's straps. In any case, the travel duffel has been impressive in every aspect. It's simple, rugged, and to the point. I'm already looking forward to using it on more trips as the summer progresses.

The Bottom Line

Both Peak Design Travel bags are going to be great options for frequent travelers and road trip enthusiasts. The rugged build of these bags is going to make them ideal for the frequent outdoorsman or woman who wants a tough bag that's at home both in an airport and the back of a dusty SUV on an overlanding or off-road adventure. Peak Design have delivered a couple of winners here. For more information on either bag, see the Peak Design website.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram For original videos, check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels